The sources of that stress are myriad: it can stem from being harassed, being bullied, being subjected to unrealistic standards, being threatened by job loss or demotion, or being pressured to work extensive hours. The human cost is extensive. And stress does major damage to the productivity of the firm itself.
According to an ABC News Report from earlier this year titled “Working Too Hard? Job Stress Doubles Depression Risk” , Americans now surpass Japanese and most Western European workers in the number of hours they devote to the job – and it is leading to increased risk of depression, heart disease, and a variety of other life-threatening ailments.
The blog Workers Law Watch comments about the harm that can be caused by working long hours and the importance of enforcing “work/life balance”:
Serious disabling medical conditions can arise from workplace stress. A recent study showed that people working long hours (11+) are more than twice as likely to experience major depression than those who work only 7-8 hours a day. Another study discovered that stressed workers have a 67% greater risk of heart disease. And other studies mention that “long working hours” lead to more risks of anxiety and a reduced ability to both think and sleep well.
Marianna Virtanen, one of the newest study’s authors, recently gave some tips to workers on ABCNews.com. One of her tips is to: “Make a distinction between work and leisure; don’t skip your holidays; take care of your health and well-being, especially sleep and exercise.” With Americans now working more hours than many of their counterparts in other countries, workers need to be proactive in taking caring of themselves.
But it isn’t just up to the workers. Psychological illnesses and depression cost companies money and result in less worker productivity, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Without buy-in from employers and workers, the personal and corporate costs from psychological illness will never be reduced.
One of the studies referenced above by Workers Law Watch, titled Overtime Work as a Predictor of Major Depressive Episode: A 5-Year Follow-Up of the Whitehall II Study, appeared this year on PlosOne.org, a research web site dedicated to accelerating the publication of peer-reviewed science. It makes for a very compelling read, and I highly recommend it.
This study examined the association between overtime work and the onset of a major depressive episode (MDE). The study concludes, in broad terms, that the data suggest that working long hours of overtime may predispose to major depressive episodes.
Common mental disorders, such as depression, are an important public health concern. According to projections by the World Health Organisation, depressive disorders will be the leading cause of disease burden in high-income countries by 2030. In addition to human misery, mental disorders often result in substantial work impairment and lost work days…
Read the complete report here…
My Canadian colleague, Ken Cowman, Managing Director at Emercomm, wrote an excellent piece this month titled “Workplace Stress: The Productivity Killer”:
Workplace stress is making us sick and, in the process, killing productivity in the workplace. This stress leads to illness and potentially fatal consequences for not just the people involved, but also the organization itself. Although the information I’m going to share is predominantly North American, similar numbers and situations are reported in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, India, the UK and other countries.
In North America, there are approximately 1.1 million workers on stress-related sick leave every business day of the year (up 17% since 2008) costing their organizations in numerous ways. Estimates of the overall cost to North American business range from $150 – $300 billion and the impact to the economy is in the trillions.
Stress lowers the body’s immune system which limits its ability to fight off common illnesses that result in short-term absenteeism. Psychological issues such as depression and anxiety and panic attacks are also being reported. Not surprisingly, more than half of workers surveyed state that job-related stress is having a negative impact on their productivity.
In Canada, a recent study shows that stress is causing workers to seek professional care for physical, mental and emotional ailments which is having a dramatic effect on the cost to governments and organizations’ employee assistance plans of providing medical services.
My own observation is that while some visionary leaders have done a magnificent job to protect their employees and their firms from dangerous levels of stress, there are still too many managers among us who pay either lip service to the issue, or turn a blind eye to the same practices that cause the damage. Many adhere to the old principle that real commitment to one’s career can only be demonstrated by burning the midnight oil to close that big sale, deliver those goods on time, or finalize that report for the Board of Directors. They dangle the bogus carrot that the 80-hour work week is the True Path to success and the Corner Office.
No doubt about it – when the game is on the line, true champions step up to the plate and produce. Sometimes that means working long hours.
But when excessive workload becomes “situation normal,” dark clouds will appear on the horizon.
- Workplace Stress Improves Worldwide But the Devil is in the Details Consulting Group Grant Thornton International has published the results of its global survey of business leaders, and has...